Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some days God asks you to color

Last night I wasn't able to sleep well so naturally I woke up this morning thinking, "Please God, can I just go back to sleep, I don't have the energy today." I got up anyway fighting the urge to roll over and pull the covers over my head. I ate breakfast the slowest I think I've ever eaten a meal and was half awake for morning prayer. After prayer I thought I would lay down for just fifteen more minutes, but instead decided to wash the dishes, get dressed, and buy purified water for us to drink. Once I got into the office to start our day working the door, I thought, "maybe no one will come and the time will fly by and the I can take a nap." but that wasn't the case. God always knows whats best for us!

This morning we have been supper busy and I have been so blessed by it. What I am experiencing today is the verse, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 Today I've been able to greet each person who has come to the door with a smile, and to my surprise, speak and understand Spanish better than I normally can. It is proof to me that when we deny ourselves, our humanly desires (in my case today sleep) God takes over as our strength. I feel as though today God is giving me super powers of grace to keep going.

Another morning last week, I woke up thinking, “man, I really don’t want to do anything today!” God proved me wrong, as he so often does! That morning two little kids came to the door several times and the last time they came I asked them if they wanted to color. They did, so I sat down and colored with them. God showed me there was one thing that I did want to do, color. It was so energizing to spend time with Toñito and Lupe and to hear them laughing and playing as we colored.

These last two weeks since I've been back from the United States, I feel like the Lord is reminding me over and over again of the reason he has called me to this mission, and that reason is LOVE. In the last two weeks I've spent more time playing with kids than I have in a really long time. I feel as thought I experience God's love the most when I am with kids. I've been able to share some of my passions with the kids like art and gymnastics. As you read above, I got to color with kids the other day, but I was also able to teach Rita's girls some gymnastics. It was fun to see them and help them learn how to do a cartwheel and see them want to do it over and over again, once they nailed it. It so reminded me of myself when I was little practicing cartwheels in my front yard.

Just last Tuesday as Erika, Toñio and myself were on our way to Guadalupe to give the class there, I was thinking, "wow, it's been awhile since I had to do something really uncomfortable to me." Be careful when you think that...because there is probably something uncomfortable to do right around the corner! Since my Spanish still isn't the best and it would be extremely difficult to teach the Defending the Catholic Faith classes, what I do is pray before the classes begin in Spanish. Normally I write out my prayer in Spanish and kind of read it, but this time I forgot my journal where I wrote the prayer. I kind of had to wing it and trust on the Holy Spirit to get me through...He did! Also, my newest ministry in Gudalupe is playing with the kids while the classes are going on; so much laughter! All in all, I've got to say that missions is the MOST blessed life.

I guess I'll say that the lessons that I am learning this week are that my weaknesses and shortcomings are so good because they are causing me to go beyond myself and rely on the Lord's strength. When we deny ourselves and take up our crosses, magical things happen and that is what keeps me going. "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vacation, Renewal, New Found JOY

My vacation to the United States began on a bus from General Cepeda, Mexico to Saltillo, Mexico on May 31st. It was rather hilarious because Erika and my bags were too large to fit under our seats and too heavy to put overhead. For most of our bus ride we had to say, "Cuidado!" (careful) each time a new passenger passed by our seats. We couldn't help but laugh that we, the only Americans on the bus, were so ridiculous with our huge bags!

Once we arrived in Saltillo, we hung out with our friend Rosio and spent the night at her house. Our day of travel on the 1st of June started really early in the morning! Without receiving much sleep the night before, Erika and I got on a bus to Monterrey at 6:30 in the morning. We arrived at the airport about two hours later, checked in, and found a place to eat breakfast at the airport. We had a few hours to relax before our flight came. I thought our plan of travel was a good one; take a bus from Saltillo to Monterrey, then a plane from Monterrey to Houston, and then a bus from Houston to Lafayette, La. I knew we would be traveling ALL day, but I thought, I'll sleep on the plane and the bus....right about that! After this trip, I've learned that I'm not the best traveler. I get a little cranky after several hours of traveling. I guess I need to travel more to get used to it. :)

I must admit it was nice once we arrived at Big Woods. My old room in the two story brought me so much comfort and at 1:00 am on June 2nd, I couldn't wait to crash! That night, I slept better than I had slept in a long time. It was nice to wake up in such a familiar place and to know that I didn't really have much to do! That day I visited with Brooke and my new nephew-cousin (not sure what to call him (: ) Anthony Joseph. He is such a beautiful baby! I was able to visit some of my mission family and some friends I hadn't seen in a long time. Did I mention that when I arrived in the States I had a serious case of culture shock! It was so odd to be in a country where I understood the language completely and had comforts that I had gone without for the last three months!

The whole reason I took this vacation was to go to the wedding of Kristen and Jonathon, two of my friends I met through missions. Their wedding was beautiful and allowed me to see even more of my friends, visit, and catch up. I had the best date to the wedding too! My date was little Anthony Joseph. We danced so much at the reception, well, I danced as he slept in my arms! It was great! I didn't take many pictures because almost the whole time I had a baby in my arms. I do want to share with you one of the pictures I took. Not only did I get to visit with my missionary friends and few other friends in Louisiana, but I got to visit my brother Francis and his wife Brandi and my family in Florida. When I arrived in Florida my mom had made plans to surprise my nieces and nephews. My sister Angela and her husband Gus along with the kids arrived at my house in Florida at 6:30 on Sunday the 5th and my mom was already talking to me on Skype as if I were in Mexico, but really I was in my room down the hall. I started talking with the kids and Mom told Angela, "Hey, the stuff you needed is down the hall." Angela came down the hall and into my room and got into the camera shot on Skype with me. It was so great to hear the kids yell, laugh, and be so confused! I was then greeted with huge hugs and kisses. O how I love those kids! Abigail, my oldest niece said something to my sister later along the lines of, "Mom, remember when you went to Mexico?" because in her mind I was in Mexico instead of my room! Most of the time in Florida I spent with family and friends that pretty much are family and relaxing. I actually spent a lot of time with my mother; it was much needed time.I remember at some point in my trip thinking, "Wow, I really don't fit in anymore, like in the world." I didn't really feel comfortable in the world, not meaning that I wanted to hide away in a little bubble somewhere and not live, I just knew that the things of this world would not and could not satisfy me. Part of me didn't want to stand out and be so different. I didn't want to dress so differently and act so differently than others. Now being back in General Cepeda I've had time to reflect on my time home and realized that it was a beautiful letdown. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the time with family and friends and the time to relax, but most of the time I was there I was thinking about missions and missing it. It is a letdown to know that I no longer "fit in" with the world, but how beautiful is it that I don't "fit in" because the Lord has changed me and made me to stand out and shine brightly for Him. I know that missions has forever changed my life, and that change will manifest itself in different ways as my life continues.

My vacation to the States was exactly what the doctor ordered. I've returned to Mexico with a renewed spirit and a different kind of joy. I wake up in the morning excited about the possibilities to serve, about the adventures to experience, and the new things I will learn that day. I feel as though I'm finally learning how to lose my life, and it feels great! I'm learning to let go and let God.

"Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever." 1 John 2:17

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Repost of last two posts!

A few people told me that they are having a hard time reading my blogs, so I've decided to repost my last two posts to make sure you can read them! Enjoy!

Untold Stories

I have fallen into a rut of not writing because I’m not feeling inspired to. I know that the Lord always wants me to proclaim the things he is doing in my life and the lives of those around me whether it sounds poetic and flows or is just reporting what my day was like. I know that He wants me to tell of the little things like seeing a child whom I’ve never seen smile before, smile for the first time and the big things like visiting a child who was once too ill and weak to walk before, walking, laughing, playing games, and telling jokes. I know that He wants me to tell the stories of the beautiful people in this special place and I am going to try my best to do just that.

There are so many people I meet each day that live with such sufferings, but yet have so much joy in their hearts and light in their eyes. I am challenged by the way these people live and it reminds me that the Lord sometimes calls us to suffer and we are to embrace it with trust and joy. Just this morning we decided to stop by our friend’s house Doña Marciana and her daughter Goya. Last week when we visisted and Goya, she asked if we could bring them to Saltillo because Doña Marciana needs to have a test done at the hospital because she constantly has terrible pain in her head and sometimes even has blood in her mouth. Erika and I randomly decided to stop in this morning to tell them we could bring them to Saltillo on Friday and to talk about what time we would leave. When we arrived this morning Goya told us we were an answer to prayer because just last night she was crying out to the Lord for help to take care of her mother, because she cannot do it alone. The people here trust in the Lord and his perfect timing. Goya could have come to our house to ask us when we could go, but instead, she prayed and waited for the Lord to answer her prayers and He did. God always hears our prayers and wants to answer them. Even in Doña Marciana’s pain, she always greets us with open arms, a kiss on the cheek, and a beautiful smile.

For the last two weeks we have been visiting all of our friends in General Cepeda, those who are sick, elderly and cannot work, and those who have no food. Last Friday we visited one of our dearest friends Doña Elvira, a sweet, feisty old lady who takes care of her five grandchildren because her daughter left a few years ago saying she was going to look for work and has never returned. Earlier that day Doña Elvira sent two of her grandchildren to our house to ask for food because they had none. When we visited her that day she said, "I am angry with you, I was hungry and you didn't have any food!" She said it in a jokingly manner because she really wasn't angry with us. We did bring her some food and was able to visit with her. She updated us on how her youngest granddaughter is doing. Her youngest granddaughter is four years old and has cancer. She is all alone in the hospital in Saltillo. Because of the cancer she is not able to eat and has to be fed through a feeding tube. She is the size of a one year old. I know that it is very hard for Doña Elvira to be so far away from her grandchild, but she has four others to take care of and really has no choice. Even in her many sufferings, she laughs and tells us stories as we visit her. The beauty and strength of the Lord radiates from her.

On Monday Erika and I visited Louis Angel, a little boy who has Lupus that is affecting his blood. Last year when I visited him for the first time, he was so weak from the disease that he could barely stand. He had an older brother, but he died from a similar disease. While visiting Louis Angel, his father was there laughing with his son and enjoying life. I know this family has suffered so much, but they continue to live, smile, and trust in the Lord for the healing of their son. During this visit, Louis Angel was not only walking but almost running. He told us jokes while giggling so much and also played hang man with us. He acted like a normal ten year old boy and it was so beautiful to see what the Lord can do to heal his people. He inspires me with the courage I see in his face. He is only ten years old and has seen more suffering than I will probably ever see in my life, and is still an innocent, joyful, normal little boy.

There are many more stories to tell but for now I'm leaving your with these. With each home visit I go on I am restored and my faith is strengthened but at the same time my heart is torn apart. The Lord is so near in this place and I see him daily in the faces of his precious saints in General.

"Come to me, all of you who are tired form carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Oh the Adventures

Missions is unpredictable…and kind of funny sometimes

Do you see the picture above? Do you see the big crack in the door at the top? Our door is not supposed to do that. It’s actually quite funny. A lady (the street sweeper) knocked on our door this morning and told us, “you have a lot of trash between your door and sidewalk.” Erika said, “Yes we do.” The lady said, “I can clean it for you. Can I also have a cup of coffee?” Erika let her in and left the door to fix her coffee. When she returned, the door was as above. Actually it was opened more than that. The funny part to the story is that once she opened the door that way, we couldn’t close it. It made for a busy day at our door today. Praise God for the work! Raul, (a friend of ours) came by and fixed it for us. I still chuckle a little when I think about it.

Where do I even begin to update you all on the past week and a half?? Not last Friday, but the Friday before that, Erika and I went to Saltillo to drop off some friends at their family’s house. While in Saltillo we had the opportunity to go to the Cathedral for mass and visit our good friend Hugo. For those of you reading from St. Paul’s parish in Pensacola, you may remember hearing about Hugo, the man at the beautiful gate, when I shared missions with you in early January. I am always refreshed when I visit Hugo because when I look into his face, I feel as though I am staring into the face of Jesus. I am renewed by his faith and joy.

All of our ministries are picking up rapidly. Last week we began our classes “Defending the Catholic Faith”. We have a decent number of people attending at both ranchos that we go to. Last week our door ministry was very slow, but this week it has picked up a lot. We figured out a schedule for our home visits so that we don’t forget anyone and we visit everyone evenly. It is such a good feeling to have so much work to do in a place. Just tonight Erika was saying how she enjoys ending a day feeling exhausted. I agree with her. It gives me a since of accomplishment. I am so blessed and thankful that the Lord sees me worthy to do His work in this special place.

I know this blog is short, but next time I'll write more. I'd like to leave you with this picture of me and my favorite Mexican Baby. Until next time, God Bless!